Kim Dorland

Montreal

By James D. Campbell

Kim Dorland: Untitled (Yellow, Red, Black Sunset), 2011: Oil on wood panel, 40 x 30 inches. Images courtesy the artist and Galerie Division, Montreal.Kim Dorland: Untitled (Yellow, Red, Black Sunset), 2011: Oil on wood panel, 40 x 30 inches. Images courtesy the artist and Galerie Division, Montreal.

Kim Dorland
Galerie Division
October 6 – November 12, 2011

Walking into Kim Dorland’s Enter, Light at the Division space, and smelling the thick, pungent, heady and altogether sensuous materiality of the paintings there, reminded me of that sublime cinematic moment when Anthony Hopkins, as Hannibal Lecter, channels Marcus Aurelius in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and instructs Jodie Foster’s FBI agent Clarice Starling : “Of each thing, ask: what is it, in and of itself. What is its nature?". Well, if it is painting perp Kim Dorland and not serial killer Buffalo Bill who is being analysed here, one might well say: his paint.

It is all there, after all, in the paint – in the sheer physicality of Dorand’s pigment. The more specific and pressing olfactory memory of mine is that of attending Milton Resnick’s NYC shows, where you were still on the sidewalk or in the lobby, and yet you sniffed the oil paint – like narcotic glue – from the still-wet paintings, wafting down from far upstairs like some heaven-sent perfume or divine aromatherapy, promising paintings decalitre-deep in their own fulsome materiality.

Of course, Dorland’s incandescent collision of Canadian history painting and Zombieland leads us to ask one question above all: what does he covet? As Lecter observes in the film: “He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? We begin by coveting what we see every day. Don't you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And don't your eyes seek out the things you want?”

Well, firstly, of course, Dorland covets his thick-bodied paint, unavoidably copious and almost flesh-like in its mien. Those fabulously excrescent painting humps are terrifically seductive and impossible to dismiss. The painter shows his affinities with LA-based Alison Schulnik (who also recently showed at Division), avatars Milton Resnick and Eugene Leroy and, not least, Summer Wheat, that Southern-born, Brooklyn-based, knee-deep-in-her-paint savant.  

Kim Dorland: Untitled (Green Sunset), 2011: Oil on wood panel, 40 x 30 inches.Kim Dorland: Untitled (Green Sunset), 2011: Oil on wood panel, 40 x 30 inches.If Tom Thompson went on a wild romp with Lawren Harris, a true-blue midnight ramble through the suburbia of these paintings, I am quite sure they would deliriously approve and high-five Dorland for sheer tenacity, bloody-mindedness and acknowledge him as blood-kindred. Why? When the sun rises here, the paint melts into a dew that trips us up, nose, foot and optic – and reminds us of ecstatic phenomena otherwise beyond our ken.

Like all good schoolchildren, we know the Thomson myth – seasoned outdoorsman who introduced his erstwhile comrades to Algonquin Park and then died mysteriously, found floating in Canoe Lake just before his 40th birthday in 1917. Well, his dead body is suspended just below the coagulant surfaces of Dorland’s paintings like a talismanic Bogman. I mean, a Bog body, one of the naturally preserved human corpses found in the sphagnum bogs in Northern Europe. Those bog bodies still possess their skin and internal organs due to highly acidic water, low temperature, and a lack of oxygen, and remind us of the beings – zombies and animals both – that Dorland preserves in his copious and seductive acreage of pure pigment just above or below the ground plane of representation.

Arguably, Dorland conflates two or more radiant signifiers of Thomson’s oeuvre – The Jack Pine, a lone pine tree sentinel at the edge of a lonely lake, and The West Wind, a work the sheer turbulence of which reminds us of Dorland’s loving surfeit of anfractuous materiality.

When the sun comes up, as in the resplendent Untitled (Thick Light), Dorland seems to be telling us that he is multitasking: paying homage to Riopelle while acknowledging Harris’s aggressive luminosity and channelling John Legend’s song:

“Baby when the sun comes up, I'm gonna be holding you
It's destiny that your next to me, I'm in love with you
Oh and baby when I wake up, I'm gonna be there with you, a new day rise
I wanna look in your eyes when the sun comes up.”

James D. CampbellJames D. Campbell is a writer on art and a curator based in Montreal. He is the author of well over 100 catalogues and books on art and artists. Recent and upcoming publications include monographs on painters Paul Bureau, Michel Daigneault and Mirana Zuger. Campbell also contributes frequently to many art magazines, including Frieze, Border Crossings, Canadian Art and others.